Over the past few months I don’t think Steven Joyce could have destroyed public transport much more if he had tried (I guess he really is trying). Shifting hundreds of millions of dollars away from public transport and into state highway funding, cancelling Auckland’s regional petrol tax, delaying the ordering of electric trains, not making any commitments to funding integrated ticketing and so forth.
So I guess it’s no particular surprise to find out that he’s lining up one of the big achievements for public transport over the past few years, the Public Transport Management Act. Here’s the news, from Radio New Zealand:
Council control over public transport to be revisited
Updated at 7:43pm on 4 June 2009The Government has signalled a return to allowing a more free-market approach to public transport, especially in Auckland.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce has told a conference in Auckland he wants to move quickly to revisit legislation passed by the previous Government.
The Public Transport Management Act gave regional councils greater control over public transport services, even those run by commercial operators without subsidies.
The Act had been bitterly opposed by the country’s biggest operator, NZ Bus, which argued it removed the ability to get a good return on major investment and smart practices.
The legislation had been particularly welcomed by Auckland’s Regional Transport Authority which said it needed greater powers in order to better control a regionwide network.
Mr Joyce says private operators need to have the confidence to continue to invest in public transport and he plans to move quickly over the next months to change the legislation.
This is really depressing news. The Public Transport Management Act (PTMA) is an essential piece in the puzzle of improving public transport services throughout the country, but most particularly in Auckland. Effectively, it gives ARTA some control over services that they do not directly contract (ie. subsidise). At the moment public transport services are a mixture of commercial and subsidised services – and ARTA has little or no control over the timing, ticketing, standard or anything of the commercial services. However, the PTMA will change this – over time as existing contracts expire – and therefore be able to ensure public transport services are created in a logical manner that serves the best interests of the general public and not just the profit of the transport companies.
History is extremely clear that splitting off commercial services from subsidised services has not worked for Auckland. In the early 1990s the privatisation fetishists almost completely ruined Auckland’s public transport system through selling off the buses and setting up this dual system. Unsurprisingly, public transport usage crashed during this time.
One of the most critical aspects of the PTMA is that it enables regional councils (and ARTA) to require public transport operators to accept an integrated ticketing system. Without the PTMA there was no previous way for the operators to be made to accept an integrated ticket on their commercial services. If that act is repealed, then I’m very sceptical we’ll ever end up with integrated ticketing for Auckland. There will simply be no way to legally ensure that transport operators accept the integrated ticket on their commercial services.
I am really starting to dislike our Transport Minister.